Posting something here today in honor of my grandmother because today is her birthday. She died Nov. 2009 at the age of 94.
She was a great source of strength for me and loved me unconditionally, always. I miss her and think of her so much. I miss our "girls day out" that we used to have on Fridays once a month when she was living. I'd go up to the nursing home where she went to live in 2005 and pick her up, then we'd go out to shop (me pushing her around Walmart or the mall in her wheelchair), and then somewhere to have lunch. We'd end the day with a stop at my grandfather's grave for a visit and then back to Baptist visit where I'd give her a manicure and pedicure before I headed back to Fargo where my parents live.
I wouldn't take ANYTHING for having spent that time with her, every visit was precious, I still visit her in my memories of them.
I wrote this piece about her as part of my newspaper column for the Clinch County News back in 2005 when she turned 90.
The Definition of Grace
The year was 1915. Albert Einstein introduced the world to his Theory of Relativity. World War I was being fought in Europe. The British steamship, Lusitania was sunk without warning off the coast of Ireland by a German submarine. 1,198 passengers drowned, including 114 Americans, which would lead to U.S. entry into the conflict.
Here at home, Woodrow Wilson was president. The average annual income of Americans was $1,267. The average cost of a house was $3,395. A car could be bought for around $390 and
the one millionth Model T Ford rolled off the assembly line in this year.
In San Francisco the World’s Fair, dubbed the Panama Pacific International Exposition awed visitors with its innovative displays from around the world. In New York City 25,000 people marched in a suffrage parade demanding that women have the right to vote. The Victor Talking Machine Company introduces a phonograph by Victrola which would lead to an explosion in the production of musical recordings in the next few years.
In sports, the Boston Red Sox won the World Series. In the entertainment world D.W.Griffith released his technically brilliant Civil War epic, Birth of a Nation.
Born in 1915 were those who would become later become famous such as Ingrid Bergman, Orson Welles, Frank Sinatra, Muddy Waters and Billie Holiday.
Also born that year was someone very dear to my family who will be celebrating her ninetieth birthday on February 17th, my grandmother, Louise Sweat.
I’ve been thinking a lot the last week about what it must be like to be turning ninety. That, in turn, led me to wonder what was going on in the world at that time, hence the short history lesson.
Of course, many things have changed. Perhaps the only two things the same now as in 1915 is the fact that we are again at war and that the Boston Red Sox won the World Series.
MaMa has written some of her memories of growing up on the outskirts of Waycross as the youngest of a large family. She was born late to the family, and was much younger than most of her siblings. She admits to being completely spoiled rotten by her doting family. She tell tales of playing in the shade while her mother and older sister picked cotton and of having dresses made and shoes bought for her by her father who couldn’t say no to his youngest daughter.
I laughed as I’ve read some of her childhood exploits, grown misty-eyed as she described meeting and falling in love with PaPa, and marveled at how she raised five girls on the salary of a preacher and whatever other job PaPa took to provide for the family. It was hard for them, as it was for most others back then. She tells of learning to sew so she could of make underwear for her daughters out of flour sacks and finding cheap bolts of cloth to sew them dresses and skirts for school and church. She and my grandfather worked hard to provide their girls with a good home, a strong faith and much love.
I suppose if I were to try and describe MaMa in one word, the word be Grace. There are several definitions of grace but the one that most succinctly defines it as it applies to my grandmother is: “A virtue or gift granted by God.”
Although I’m not much of a religious person, I do believe MaMa’s grace comes from God. I believe her grace and sweet spirit come from her faith which has helped her through difficult times. I have seen, in her, someone who is a true Christian without feeling a need for any fanfare about it. Her actions, her demeanor, her life as lived for the past seventy years or so since she was saved have been proof positive of her faith.
An even better description of the word grace as it applies to MaMa is a quote by William Hazitt: “Grace has been defined as the outward expression of the inward harmony of the soul.” And that is most definitely how my grandmother expresses such a sweet grace that those around her cannot help but love and admire her.
This past year has been a trying one for MaMa and for those of us who love her. After several years of declining health, she was no longer able to stay in her home. After much deliberations and at the advice of her doctor, the decision was made to put her in Baptist Village.
This past September as my momma and I took her over to Waycross for her admission, we were all three extremely sad. For my mother, who has taken such good care of her for the past several years, it was devastating. For MaMa, it was a complete change in her lifestyle and a little scary. As for me, well I remember crying most of the way home on my drive back to Gainesville.
But we shouldn’t have fretted so much because MaMa adjusted magnificently to her new home. She, in a very short time of her arrival, had won over the nursing staff and her roommate with her amiable personality. Her sweet spirit has made her many new friends. These days she enjoys the daily interaction with people her own age and participating in various activities like crafts, bingo and, to our utter amazement, bowling! You see, she had never bowled before now.
I suppose, the way my grandmother is can best be summed up by one of the nursing aides the last time I was there for a visit.
She came in to bring a cup of ice and spontaneously bent down to give MaMa a kiss on the forehead and a quick hug. Looking at me she smiled and said, “You know there’s something about Mrs. Sweat, you just can’t help but love her.”
I just smiled and nodded. It’s something I’ve always known.
Rose S Williams
|MaMa at her 82nd birthday in 1997|